UVM unveils ambitious new housing plan - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

UVM unveils ambitious new housing plan

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Plans are in the works for major improvements to student housing at the University of Vermont.

"It was time to relook at the housing on campus and try and establish a new master plan," said Bob Vaughan, the director of capital planning at UVM.

The proposal comes more than a decade after a prior version outlined major projects like the Davis Center. The new plan is roughly 25-pages long and at its core is improving the freshman experience.

"It provides a community of first years closer to the classrooms and closer to the rest of campus," Vaughan said.

Vaughan says reaching that goal will require moving first year students from the Trinity campus and replacing the Chittenden, Buckham and Wills dorms the report calls obsolete.

"They've got small rooms that are inflexible for changing. It's not like you've got a stud wall that you can move; we've got concrete walls," Vaughan said.

In addition to undergraduate improvements, UVM President Tom Sullivan says finding ways to recruit new faculty and keep older faculty near campus with housing will also be important.

"Similarly, as faculty retire and want to stay in Burlington, want to stay close to the campus for social, cultural and academic events, living on or near it is very attractive," Sullivan said.

They're big goals that are sure to come with a hefty price tag. Vaughan says the university does not have plans to pick up the tab for new construction. Instead, it wants to use a third-party to build and manage the proposed housing, similar to the arrangement behind the recently completed Red Stone Lofts.

"We're not looking to add to our own debt capacity and use debt of the university to build any new housing," Vaughan said.

The proposal also calls for renovations and improvements at remaining campus dorms. It has Sullivan excited, but he admits getting to the finished product will take work.

"It will take a little creativity and imagination to build it," Sullivan said, "but it's really a terrific plan."

The master plan is designed with a 10-15 year timeline in mind.

The plan aims to keep 60 percent of the student body living on campus. It also raises the idea of new apartment-style housing downtown for students with hopes of moving some upper classmen out of residential neighborhoods.

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